A new Amnesty International report says that systemic failures and shocking disparities in the maternal health care system, is responsible for the appalling death rate for women having babies in the United States.
In releasing the new report on maternal health nationwide, Amnesty International revealed that two to three women die each day in the United States from pregnancy-related complications, with half of these deaths believed to be preventable, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The Amnesty International report, Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the USA, also reveals that severe pregnancy-related complications that nearly cause death — known as “near misses” — are rising at an alarming rate, increasing by 25 percent since 1998. Currently nearly 34,000 women annually experience a “near miss” during delivery.
With a lifetime risk of maternal deaths that is greater than in 40 other countries, including virtually all of the industrialised countries, the United States has failed to reverse the two-decade upward trend in preventable maternal deaths, despite pledges to do so.
The report cited numerous causes for the crisis and offers lengthy recommendations on improving maternal health care.
Inadequate prenatal care is cited as a contributing factor in the crisis. Women who do not get prenatal care are three to four times more likely to die than women who do. In Louisiana almost one in six women (15.5 percent) receive delayed or no prenatal care. The number rises to one in five women (22.9 percent) among women of colour.
Obstacles to care are widespread: the most obvious being that across the United States nearly 13 million women of reproductive age (15 to 44), or one in five, have no health insurance. In Louisiana, one in four women (25.9 percent) is uninsured; among women of color the number of uninsured climbs to 36.3 percent, one in three.
The state’s Medicaid eligibility level for working parents is also very low, $4,572. Lack of access to health care centers and providers is a problem nationwide, the report found; in Louisiana 51 percent of women live in medically underserved areas.
“No issue can be more central to the health and well-being of our nation than maternal health care,” said Jared Feuer, Southern Regional Director for Amnesty International USA.
“The government should accept its duty and its moral obligation to address this inexcusable crisis by developing a comprehensive plan to ensure quality health care for all pregnant women. If the federal government can address steroid use in baseball, certainly lawmakers can address maternal health, which affects every family in the United States.”
Amnesty International is urging President Obama to work with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to establish, and seek Congressional funding, for a single office responsible for ensuring that all women receive quality maternal health care. An Office of Maternal Health would lead government action to reduce the soaring pregnancy-related complications and maternal deaths nationwide.
Additionally, Amnesty International calls for vigorous enforcement of federal non-discrimination laws and an increase in support for Federally Qualified Health Centers by 2011 to expand the number of women who can access affordable maternal health care.
“This country’s extraordinary record of medical advancement makes its haphazard approach to maternal care all the more scandalous and disgraceful,” said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA.
“Mothers die not because the United States can’t provide good care, but because it lacks the political will to make sure good care is available to all women.”
Amnesty International’s analysis shows that health care reform before Congress does not address the crisis of maternal health care.
“Reform is primarily focused on health care coverage and reducing health care costs, and even optimistic estimates predict that any proposal on the table will still leave millions without access to affordable care,” said Rachel Ward, one of the authors of the Deadly Delivery report.
“Furthermore, it does not address discrimination, systemic failures and government accountability documented in Amnesty International’s report.”
Source: Amnesty International